Why flight seat selection charges on planes are a waste of money

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You’ve chosen your flights, you’ve put in your traveller details, and now you’re being asked whether you want to pay to select seats. When faced with the prospect of bumping up the fare significantly or sitting on your own for hours, it can be difficult to determine whether it’s worth forking out extra to sit together. The truth is that many of us panic when we don’t necessarily need to. Research conducted by the consumer group Which? suggests that a staggering 86% of passengers waste money on seat selection.


Is it worth paying for seat selection?

When you’re booking a flight, and you’re travelling with friends or family, it’s natural to want to sit together, but is it really worth paying out for seat selection, or should you just take the risk and keep your fingers crossed for good news when you check in? Today, it’s very common for airlines, especially budget operators, to charge for seat selection, but research suggests that the vast majority of airlines sit parties together.


Which? found that 86% of passengers who paid for specific seats would have been sat together anyway. By analysing data from the 10 most popular airlines in the UK, the consumer group deduced that travellers are wasting vast sums because they’re desperate to eliminate the risk of ending up next to strangers instead of their friends, partners or children.


The Which? report was based on a survey, which covered more than 3,500 flights, and suggested that if you’re travelling on any of the top 10 airlines with the exception of Ryanair, you should probably keep your money in your pocket. Aer Lingus, Norwegian, EasyJet, FlyBe and British Airways all allocated seats together in over 90% of cases, while Thomas Cook, Jet2 and Tui offered over 85% of passengers neighbouring seats. Ryan Air was an anomaly, with just 46% of passengers who hadn’t booked seats sat together.



Factors to consider when booking flights for groups

If you’re travelling alone, it probably doesn’t matter to you where you sit unless you want extra legroom a window or aisle seat, but if you’re part of a group, you probably want to be next to a member of your party. If you do have the option to book a seat, it’s worth considering the record of the airline when it comes to seat allocation, and also looking at the price of seats. The cost of choosing seats, whether you’re booking a flight to Europe or you’re travelling further afield, can vary hugely from less than £5 to £50.


You may think that if you’ve got friends or family members with you, it’s worth paying a small sum for peace of mind, but if you’re reluctant to pay for extras on top of the fare, it may be worth hanging fire. In many cases, you can pay for a seat when you check in online, and if you do this, it will be possible to see if you’ve been allocated seats together before the total price increases. The Civil Aviation Authority estimates that airlines make around £175 million per year through seat selection charges alone.


Why is sitting together so important?

We tend to think about preventing boredom and passing time when we talk about sitting with friends and family, but there are other reasons why it makes sense to allocate seats together. For parents travelling with children, it’s not safe or practical to split families up.


Which? is also keen to point out potential safety issues, which could arise from dividing parties. In the event of an incident or a crash, it would be difficult to suppress natural instincts, which would drive family members or parents to different parts of the plane to find loved ones. For some, it’s a matter of being able to share headphones, watch TV shows or films together or simply enjoy companionship, but it is worth thinking about more profound reasons why seats should be allocated together.


If you’ve booked a flight, and you’re wondering whether to pay for seats, hopefully, this guide will point you in the right direction. While Ryanair has a low rating, the vast majority of other popular UK airlines allocate groups seats together. Unless you’re absolutely desperate for a specific seat, or you’re flying with Ryanair, there’s every chance that paying for seats could be a waste of money.



Louise Boxall

Louise has 10 years experience in Travel Journalism, Blog Writing and Research in the Travel Insurance sector. Louise’s goal is to provide interesting, informative articles on subjects we know will interest our customers.

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